Pro Bowl

Projecting which Eagles player is next to make the Pro Bowl

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AP Images

Projecting which Eagles player is next to make the Pro Bowl

In one hallway in the NovaCare Complex there are giant Fathead-like images of every Eagles Pro Bowler and the years they made the team. 

It only counts the Pro Bowls as Eagles, so, for instance, a guy like Haloti Ngata didn’t retroactively get put on the wall when he signed here. But there are, by my count, 10 current Eagles on the wall: Brandon Brooks, Fletcher Cox, Zach Ertz, Nick Foles, Malcolm Jenkins, Lane Johnson, Jason Kelce, Jason Peters, Darren Sproles and Carson Wentz. 

There are no new entries for the wall this year as Cox, Brooks, Ertz, Jenkins and Kelce had all made a Pro Bowl before. 

A few times a year, I’ll find myself in that hallway and ask a fellow media member, “Who is the next guy on the wall?” It’s something I like doing and it probably annoys my fellow reporters, which makes me like doing it more. 

Anyway, in honor of this year’s Pro Bowl on Sunday, here are my top five guesses for the next Eagle to make his first Pro Bowl and get added to the wall:  

Alshon Jeffery 

His last Pro Bowl appearance was in 2013 when he was still with the Bears, but Jeffery clearly has the talent of a Pro Bowler, although his numbers in his first two seasons with the Eagles have been modest. In the two years, he’s averaged 61 catches, 816 yards and 7.5 touchdowns per season. Another year like that and he won’t be a Pro Bowler. But he played through a torn rotator cuff in 2017 and then missed three games to start 2018 because of it. If he can stay healthy and play a full season with a healthy Carson Wentz, there’s a good chance he could take a spot in the annual All-Star showcase. 

Michael Bennett 

I actually think Bennett should be a Pro Bowler this year. Olivier Vernon replaced Khalil Mack in the game and the case was really much stronger for Bennett. Vernon played just 11 games in 2018. Meanwhile, Bennett had nine sacks and was the best defensive end on a playoff team. Oh well. This year will snap Bennett’s streak of Pro Bowls after he made the last three in Seattle. If he’s back in 2019, he should start the whole season and could get to double-digit sacks for the second time in his career. 

Nigel Bradham 

After a slow start in 2018, we saw Bradham really pick it up toward the end of the season, even with that broken hand. Even if the Eagles get Jordan Hicks to come back, Bradham has to be the top linebacker, which means he doesn’t leave the field. Once that happened last year, he really started to play well. It’s tough to make this team as a linebacker though. This year’s are Luke Kuechly and Bobby Wagner and then Leighton Vader Esch subbed in for Kuechly. Tough competition. But if Bradham can be consistently good for a full season, he might get some recognition. 

Cameron Johnston 

Yeah, I’m giving you the punter. Because in his first NFL season, Johnston had a gross average of 48.1 (third in the NFL) and a net average of 42.7 (fourth in the NFL) and both were single-season franchise records. The problem is that the guy clearly in Johnston’s way in Seattle punter (and fellow Australian) Michael Dickson, who was drafted in the fifth round, put up even better numbers in his rookie season. But Johnston is good and young and I’d bet on him being good for a while. 

Derek Barnett 

He has just 7 1/2 sacks through the first two years of his career, but he was at least a starter in Year 2 and we’ve seen flashes of why the Eagles made him the No. 14 pick a couple years ago. His second season was off to a promising start before he suffered a shoulder injury in Week 4. His stat line says he had 2 1/2 sacks in six games, but he was healthy for four of them, so I think he was on pace for a nearly double-digit sack season. Granted, there’s some more projection in this one, but Barnett still has two more years left on his rookie contract (plus a fifth-year option) and is still just 22 years old. He has a shot. 

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Eagles' Malcolm Jenkins rightfully added to Pro Bowl roster

Eagles' Malcolm Jenkins rightfully added to Pro Bowl roster

For the third time in his career, Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins is a Pro Bowler. 

He definitely deserves it. 

Jenkins, who was initially a first-alternate, will replace Giants safety Landon Collins, who finished the 2018 season on IR with a shoulder injury. 

Jenkins, 31, has become one of the greatest free-agent acquisitions in Eagles history. He might be the greatest in franchise history. Since signing with the Eagles in 2014, he has turned himself into one of the best safeties in the league and has now been a Pro Bowler in three of his five years with the Birds, including the last two. 

This season, Jenkins had one interception, eight passes defensed, three forced fumbles and a sack. 

But the most impressive part of Jenkins’ season was just how much he meant to a secondary that was ravaged by injuries. He was the only member of the secondary to stay healthy this season; the other five starters weren’t around during the playoffs. Jalen Mills, Ronald Darby and Rodney McLeod ended up on IR and Sidney Jones dealt with a hamstring injury for much of the season. 

Not only did Jenkins start every game, he didn’t leave the field. Including the playoffs, he played all 1,180 defensive snaps this season and also chipped in a significant amount of special teams snaps (158). He’s really become the Eagles’ iron man. 

Aside from just playing every snap, Jenkins means a ton to the Eagles in terms of versatility and leadership. He was the guy who would often speak to the team and break down huddles. 

Jenkins joins the Eagles’ first three Pro Bowlers, who made the initial list: Fletcher Cox, Brandon Brooks and Zach Ertz. 

Brooks will definitely miss the exhibition game on Jan. 27 because he tore his Achilles on Sunday in New Orleans. It also seems very likely Cox will miss the game because of a turf toe injury he suffered on Sunday; he was in a walking boot at locker clean-out day. Ertz told reporters he was undecided about whether or not he’ll play in the game. 

While Jenkins can’t play forever, he’s still playing at an extremely high level at age 31. He takes care of his body and is under contract for two more seasons. 

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The irony of Eagles' Pro Bowl snubs

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The irony of Eagles' Pro Bowl snubs

The irony is certainly not lost on Jason Kelce.

The Eagles' center has made the Pro Bowl twice, in 2014 and 2016 — two years he considers to be the worst of his career. This year, when Kelce is having what might be his best NFL season, he didn't make the cut.

"It's pretty ironic that the two years I don't think I deserve to go, I end up going," said Kelce, who missed four games in 2014 after sports hernia surgery and got off to a horrible start in 2016.

Kelce and defensive end Brandon Graham were a little disappointed Wednesday, the day after the NFL announced the Pro Bowl rosters and they weren't included. Both have had Pro Bowl caliber seasons to this point and are widely considered the biggest Eagles' "snubs."

But both understand.

"I think it's all about the numbers," Graham said. "Because when you're voting, all you see is the numbers. Sometimes when I'm voting and I didn't see a guy, I'm like 'damn, he had that much? I'm going to vote for him.' Or if it's somebody I know, I'm going to vote for him. It's just all about who you know and who had the top numbers."

Graham has 9 1/2 sacks this season. The three NFC defensive ends chosen over him all have more. Demarcus Lawrence has 13 1/2, Everson Griffen has 13 and Cameron Jordan has 10.

Graham's impact with the Eagles is pretty unquestionable, but maybe a half a sack kept him out of his first-career Pro Bowl. That's a shame, but sometimes that's just the way these things shake out.

In Kelce's case, the two guys in front of him — Alex Mack from Atlanta and Travis Frederick from Dallas — were certainly deserving. And Kelce understands that. He praised both Wednesday.

Anyway, the veteran center was happy for offensive line teammates Brandon Brooks and Lane Johnson, who were both named to their first Pro Bowls.

"Those guys have been great for some time now," Kelce said. "For them to finally get their first go at it is awesome."

There's still a chance Kelce and Graham could become Pro Bowlers this season. Both are alternates for the game — a couple years ago Malcolm Jenkins made it as a seventh-alternate.

But as it stands now, the Eagles have six Pro Bowlers: Johnson, Brooks, Carson Wentz, Zach Ertz, Fletcher Cox and Jenkins.

This year's Pro Bowl will be on Jan. 28 in Orlando. That's the week before the Super Bowl, so the Eagles are hoping they won't be available for the exhibition game. Jenkins said he doesn't plan on playing.

"That's the goal," Kelce said, "that nobody gets to play in this game."